Let's say you are the owner of a business, Sandwiches Unlimited. You are an established business and you've been operating under Sandwiches.net for years. As your company has grown, you realize that you should buy the "Sandwiches.com" top level domain name, as well. Why would you do this?
Your domain name is your home address on the internet. If someone is looking for you online, they can always do a Google search to find you if they can't remember your exact URL. However, you want to reduce any friction in the process when it comes to your customers and prospects going directly to your website.
Another reason you might want to buy a new domain is to protect your brand. If someone else owns Sandwiches.com and your users accidentally land on their website to find $5 sandwich makers (when you clearly sell organic, gourmet customized sammiches at your upscale shops), you've just confused your brand.
In what other situations might you need to negotiate for a domain name? Perhaps you are a professional speaker and you want to use your name as your website, but it's already taken.
Another reason might be that you have a really long company name and you want something shorter, snappier, and easier to remember. But the domain you like is already taken.
At this point, you have a few options before you need to start negotiations with the domain owner.
Alternatives to Negotiating
Get creative. Maybe you don't need the exact name of your business for your domain to be successful. You could be creative and think of a new domain name that is close enough to your ideal domain.
Or, you could purchase a different top level domain, such as .us or .net or .biz.
These alternatives might work for some businesses, but if you want to build a solid brand you need to consider your domain name carefully. You don't want to get into a situation where you've built up your business and your brand, and then realize you've chosen a clumsy or inappropriate domain name to represent you on the web.
This brings us to our subject. When it comes time to get the domain of your dreams, how do you go about it? I've had to do this a few times in my career and for some of our clients, so here's my approach.
4 Steps to Negotiating for a Domain Name
1. Perform a domain lookup at the registrar to find owner information.
You can use a service like WhoIs.net to look up the owner of a domain you want to purchase. You might be able to tell already if the owner of the domain and the website are serious or established businesses.
Someone might have purchased a domain and never used it, or they might be waiting to build their dream product and haven't launched a site yet.
2. Ask the person who owns the domain to give you a price first, you don’t want to start too high.
Once you know who the owner is, you can either reach out by phone or email to start the conversation.
You may notice on WhoIs.net that you can make an offer to the owner right then and there. That may not be the best way to start negotiating, however. If you do get the phone number or email of the owner from your lookup, you might have better luck by calling or emailing first to test the waters.
You can feel the person out to see how receptive they might be to an offer.
3. Understand your position in the negotiations.
As the purchaser, you are in a good position for negotiations. Unless the website is highly professional and established, the owner of the domain may be parking that domain for later use. The owner has a lot of work ahead of him or her to actually put that domain to good use.
Not only do they have to build their business and their website, but they have to maintain it for the long haul. Do you know how many businesses fail in the first year?
If the owner has only a vague notions of making a website "one of these days" or their business hasn't taken off, you are in a good position to buy the domain from them.
If the person who owns the domain doesn’t sell, they have more work ahead if they don’t really plan to start a business. Most people should be motivated to sell at a fair price.
4. Use an escrow service to handle the transaction to keep both parties safe
After counter-offers and an agreement is made to sell, you will want to use an escrow service to make the payment. This ensures that both parties are safe and the deal actually goes through as negotiated.
Escrow.com is one service that comes highly recommended by sites like eBay and GoDaddy. You can use their domain and website escrow services to close the deal.
A few more tips:
- Don’t be afraid to pay good money for a good domain. There is a lot of value in the right domain for your company, so think of it as an investment.
- At the same time, don’t obsess over the right domain. Don't waste too much sleep or time obsessing over the perfect domain. Just make sure it's as close to your brand as possible.
- Make sure the domain is user-friendly, not too awkward or long or filled with strange characters. You don't want to ever say "Yeah, my website is "my dash perfect underscore website dot com"